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    S'kkara holds fort at Premadasa

    Kumar Sangakkara took the lead in the partnership with Thilan Samaraweera, which stabilised the Sri Lankan innings.

    Colombo: Amid the copious showers sweeping across this part of the island, which spells a looming drawn second Test, it needed someone with a sense of the bizarre to raise a laugh.

    Sri Lanka’s often stodgy middle-order batsman Thilan Samaraweera told a media conference at a drenched Premadasa Stadium how the Kumar Sangakkara side can still win this all but waterlogged Test against the West Indies. This he says can be achieved by the team’s bowlers – including a new crop of seam and pacemen – by taking 20 wickets in a matter of five sessions.

    He did admit, though, that Sri Lanka needed to get 400 on the board first then dismiss the West Indies for less than 200 and enforce the follow-on. All so easy, hey? Samaraweera, it seems also believes in the tooth fairy.

    What he is forgetting though will put a damper on his forecast. This is how the weather predictions for the next five days for greater Colombo, which includes Khettarama, where this second Test of the series is being played, are far from helpful. What we have are thunder showers and a 60 per cent chance of precipitation.

    And the way the rain swamped the venue late afternoon on day two, it suggests that Samaraweera believes in miracles. This is how a side whose bowling attack has in the last three Tests taken 34 wickets out of a maximum of 60, while conceding 1981 runs at an average of 58.26 a wicket, will achieve such a possibility.

    Well now, how do you explain this theory to someone such as Aravinda de Silva, the convener of selectors? Was it not the former great middle-order Sri Lanka batsman who last weekend suggested Sri Lanka’s fast bowlers were a lazy bunch of loafers? That they had become wrapped in swaddling and were being told by one of the team management they were not to deliver more than 15 or 18 balls in a net session an hour.

    This then is the pace attack that is going to rip the Windies apart twice in a matter of five sessions. It is not certain from what planet Samaraweera has just descended, or perhaps he is still working out in theory how he lost his first innings wicket in Galle through a run out while on a postprandial stroll up the pitch.

    All this, mind you, at a venue that currently resembles a derelict space age set for some futuristic Star Trek extravaganza in which the dreams of achieving the final frontier is beyond reach. Samaraweera is, in fact, an Asian replica of Dr. Spock in an episode titled “Rainfall - Reality at Premadasa” while the first Sri Lanka space probe has been delayed because of the continuous showers.

    If there were concerns how the lead up to the Commonwealth Games was a public relations disaster as well as a growing public embarrassment for New Delhi and India, Sri Lanka’s plans to delivery three so-called first world venues in time for cricket World Cup 2011 is starting to attract similar criticism.

    After watching New Zealand’s Kane Williamson score a stylish debut Test century against India at Motera not too long ago, Kumar Sangakkara’s left-handed example of propping up his team with his 24th Test century at the Star Trek site was perhaps the more elegant. Williamson is a right-hander anyway and his panache will grow as he develops against international attacks. To suggest though he is the modern version of Martin Crowe is not too far wrong.

    Sangakkara on the other hand is a stylist of his own with balanced strokeplay. The way he eases into his strokes, with tidy handwork and sound technique, explains just how in touch with his game he is. He took the lead in the partnership which stabilised the innings with Samaraweera and although he has escaped twice with dropped catches from shabby fielding, it is always a matter of luck when it comes to scoring a century in trying circumstances.

    It wasn’t a matter of helping himself either on a day where Sri Lanka scored 210 runs for the loss of two wickets – Samaraweera and the ever fluky Angelo Mathews – during the 52.4 overs possible, explains the value of Sangakkara to the side. It is why they reached the comparative safety of 294 for five and the pitch flattening out when the rains arrived.

    While the West Indies bowlers toiled and Shane Shillingford passed scrutiny as he didn’t get around to delivering the doosra, there were dropped catches that didn’t quite help their cause. Dwayne Bravo, as an example, no doubt feeling miffed at one chance falling just short of a fieldsman as the West Indies, so alert in Galle during the Sri Lanka first innings, giving an impression they were in neutral mode.

    Kemar Roach did get some bounce and as with Bravo, there was seam movement as well, only the ever immaculate Sangakkara batted with confidence; there was discipline in that he didn’t go chasing anything outside the off with wild drives that gives the slips catching practice, a la Galle second innings. Sri Lanka cannot afford such errors if they hope to wring a victory out of a game in this rain-soaked series.

    So, despite the Samaraweera tooth fairy theory at Premadasa, any possible result will have to wait until Pallekele in Kandy in December and only, of course, if the rains take a break.

    (Full Scorecard)